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Swimmers choose a cause, distance, and then just ... Swim For Them

September 1st, 2013 7:12 am by Leigh Ann Laube

Swimmers choose a cause, distance, and then just ... Swim For Them

Lily Perdue will be swimming for the American Cancer Society during Swim For Them 2013 on Sept. 14. Contributed photo.

Melanie Sheppard has finally found a way to thank Scott and Nikki Niswonger and the Niswonger Foundation for selecting her son Matthew as a Niswonger Scholar.

Matthew, a Sullivan South graduate, is a freshman industrial engineering major at Clemson University, and the opportunities provided to him through the Niswonger Foundation have been amazing, Sheppard said.

“We have just kind of been blown away this summer by all the opportunities he’s had,” she said. “My husband and I had kind of talked through the summer, wishing for a way to thank Mr. and Mrs. Niswonger. It was just like the Lord said to me, ‘This is the way you can thank the Niswongers.’” 

Sheppard is one of 50 swimmers in Swim For Them 2013, a charitable event set for Sept. 14 at the Kingsport Aquatic Center in which participants choose a cause — in Sheppard’s case, Niswonger Children’s Hospital — choose the distance, then swim. Sheppard has known about the event, now in its fourth year, since its beginning. When she learned she could swim any distance and for the charity of her choice, she signed up.

The Niswongers, of Greeneville, are the lead benefactors for the Niswonger Children’s Hospital built at the Johnson City Medical Center.

“We know several people who have used Niswonger Children’s Hospital. There are a couple of children we know who have leukemia, and they go to St. Jude, and Niswonger is a St. Jude affiliate,” she said.

Swim For Them started in 2010 with three swimmers — Greg Wellman, Greg Perdue and Dave Ladd. Those three have participated every year, and every year the event has grown. This year, 50 swimmers are registered; about 60 percent of them are 18 and younger.

“We went from three (swimmers) to nine to 20 to 50. That’s a pretty healthy growth rate,” Perdue said.

Swim For Them, organized as a mission of Mafair United Methodist Church, will start around 8 a.m. with swimmers in 16 lanes of the lap pool, alternating times in the pool.

“We’re definitely going to have to schedule it out,” Perdue said.

Because swimmers can pick their cause, 30 different charities will benefit this year. There’s a swimmer coming from Knoxville to participate, and a past participant will swim this year in an Arizona pool.

“Since the Kingsport Aquatic Center (KAC) is there, we see a lot of potential growth,” Perdue said. “There’s not a lot of 50-meter pools east of the Mississippi. It’s an unusual setup. They’re helping offset the cost to host this. WCQR is also helping to promote. There’s a lot more people who have started to come to us.” 

Sheppard’s goal is to swim 2,000 meters — or 44 laps. It’s a bit longer than she usually swims several days a week at the KAC. Her fundraising goal is $2,000, or $1 for every meter.

This year’s swimmers and their causes are:

 Kate Ardire, Southeast German Shepherd Rescue; Anna Barker, Small Miracles; Richard Byrd, American Heart Association; Tyler Bourgeois, undecided charity; Kristina Caudill, Wounded Warrior; Caitlin Cherry, One Acre Cafe; Alyssa Colhoun, Johnson City/Washington County Animal Shelter; Erin Colhoun, Imagine No Malaria; Emily Cross, Sea Wolves Aquatic Pack; Emme and Deemer Diep, Sea Wolves Aquatic Pack;

 Julia Dessauer, CASA for Kids Inc.; Riley Dotson, Big Brothers Big Sisters; Lexi Dyck, Sea Wolves Aquatic Pack; Allison Falin, The Dream Center; Stacy Fields, Wounded Warrior Project; Scottie Garber, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; Vincent Gould, Sea Wolves Aquatic Pack; Grant Greenhill, United Way of Greater Kingsport; Bradley Grindstaff, Muscular Dystrophy Association; Luke Hicks, Outdoor Experience 4 All;

 Becca Iddings, Sea Wolves Aquatic Pack; Cristina Kubicki, Second Harvest Food Bank; Alex Kuzmanoff, Small Miracles Therapeutic Equestrian Center; Dave Ladd, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network; Valerie Love, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; Mitchell Lupi, Sea Wolves Aquatic Pack; Randall Lupi, Sea Wolves Aquatic Pack; Alic Mann, Miller Perry Elementary School; Justin Mann, Miller Perry Elementary School; Ashley and Joe May, Ronald McDonald House;

 Olivia May, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; Nadine and Sarah McMackin, Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s; Hannah Monroe, Second Harvest Food Bank; James Monroe, Second Harvest Food Bank; Greg Perdue, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; Lily Perdue, American Cancer Society; Sam Perdue, Holston Habitat for Humanity; Kaylie Richard, Tennessee Valley Golden Retriever Rescue; Melanie Sheppard, Niswonger Children’s Hospital;

 Glenn Shoaf, Compassion International; Luke Shoaf, Compassion International; Margaret Siglin, Sea Wolves Aquatic Pack; Brandon Sloan, Small Miracles Therapeutic Equestrian Center; McKenzie Wallen, Make-A-Wish Foundation; Grace Wellman, the Haley Vincent Foundation; Greg Wellman, Cure Alzheimer’s; and Emilyn Wilson, Backpack Ministries at First Baptist Church of Weber City.

The public is invited to watch the event. For more information, visit or

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